Speedy Coetzé, Corbett and Van Niekerk wrap up final meet ahead of national champs

aquatics05 March 2023 12:01
By:Karien Jonckheere
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Pieter Coetzé © SouthAfricanSportsImages

World junior champion Pieter Coetzé showed his speedwork is well on track by recording an A qualifying time for the Swimming World Championships in the 50m backstroke on the final day of action at the Grand Prix meet in Durban on Sunday.

The 18-year-old stormed to victory in a time of 25.09 seconds and was back in the pool a little later to record a B qualifying time in the 200m backstroke, winning in 1:58.34 – just 0.27 seconds off the A qualifying mark.

Fellow Pretoria swimmers Kaylene Corbett and Lara van Niekerk also put in promising early-season performances. Corbett took victory in the 200m breaststroke in an A qualifying time of 2:25.81 – almost a full 10 seconds ahead of her nearest challenger.

Van Niekerk, meanwhile, swam an A qualifier in the heats of the 50m breaststroke, finishing in a time of 30.65. Her time in Sunday morning’s final was 31.04, but still saw her finishing a second and a half in front of Corbett.

“I’m happy – especially with the Olympic qualifying time [in the 100m breaststroke]. The other events didn’t go as well as I hoped, like the 50m breaststroke,” said Van Niekerk afterwards. “I still managed to go 30.6 which is actually good considering I haven’t done any front-end speed… I need to keep in mind that we are in hard training.

“Now I know exactly where I am in the training so it’s just a matter of getting that last little bit of fitness and the front-end speed going.”

Meanwhile, Rebecca Meder showed her versatility by claiming her third and fourth titles of the weekend on Sunday, taking victory in the 400m freestyle in 4:17.93 (although she had swum a 4:16.32 in the heats) and the 100m freestyle in 55.67 – both B qualifying times for the World Championships in Japan this July.

Erin Gallagher finished second in the 100m freestyle in 55.97 seconds. She then went on to win the 50m butterfly in 26.87 seconds. Both times were also B qualifying marks.

“I’ve worked hard so I’m really happy with my times,” said Meder. “To be going those times just before Nationals is a big confidence booster for me. So it’s just a matter of training hard in the next five weeks, getting in some mileage and speed and getting in some power and then seeing what I can produce at Nationals.”

Gallagher added: “We’re all in the middle of hard training at the moment so I didn’t have too many expectations coming into the gala. I think it was more the feeling of getting a suit on, standing up and racing against some of the best swimmers in the country which is always such a privilege to do.

“But it’s definitely a stepping stone to Nationals, which is another stepping stone for world champs,” added the Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

Others who achieved B qualifying times in the heats but not the finals were Dakota Tucker in the 400m individual medley (4:49.87 in the heats and 4:52.67 to win the final), Clayton Jimmie in the 50m freestyle (22.88 in the heats and 23.01 in the final) and Milla Drakopoulos in the 100m backstroke (1:02.67 in the heats and 1:03.01 in the final).

Competitors will need to swim qualifying times at the SA National Championships in Gqeberha from 12-16 April to book their places on the team to the World Championships which take place in Fukuoka, Japan from 23-30 July 2023.